My Dressmakers’ Ball Dress

I’ve made a YouTube channel! My first video is talking through some of the details of the dress I made for The Dressmakers’ Ball. I won’t always also do a blog post about things I’m going to make videos about, but in this case I took loads of photos so I wanted to share some of them here!

I made a copy of a dress worn by Ginnifer Goodwin to the Met Gala a few years ago. I’d always loved the dress and thought this was the perfect excuse to make it!

You can see the red stitching I used to attached the beautiful sequinned fabric I bought from RayStitch (after realising there was no way I was going to have time to sew all the sequins on by hand) to the silk organza I bought from Stoff and  Stil.

The black stitching you can see is the stitching lines I did to mark the edges of where to sew on the sequins – when I was going to do it by hand. If anyone has any ideas what I can do with the sequins, by the way, please let me know! I guess some embroidery or something!

The gold stitching is the new stitching for construction – in this case darts. I cut open the darts on the front bodice and pressed them open to reduce bulk.

I had the leather (or more accurately faux leather) already in my stash as I bought it a while ago from Girl Charlee to make a leather jacket.

To sew the leather into the seams, I tried a couple of methods but what I ended up going with was cutting the strips 1 1/4″ (the finished width) plus 2 x 5/8″ seam allowances, which is 2.5″. I then stitched one side of the leather to one side of the seam, 5/8″ away from the edge, along the 5/8″ seam allowance of the leather – along the chalk line below.

I then did the same on the other side – but the 2 pattern pieces are not yet sewn together, they are only attached with the strip of leather.

Then I sewed the actual seam of the 2 pattern pieces, which brought the 2 edges of the leather together, but not overlapping, reducing the potential bulk at the seam. The photo, below, is how it looked before it had been pressed. Once pressed the leather sat pretty flush with the sequins, which is what I wanted!

It was starting to come together here – it just needed the leather on the shoulders and the sleeves adding. Oh, and a zip!

I reinforced the shoulders to make sure they didn’t stretch out.

And then added the sleeves and the leather around the neckline and shoulders.

My carpet looks like I murdered a sequinned Muppet! And I’m still finding sequins now, a month later!

I added a waist stay to the dress – my first time doing this. It holds the weight of the skirt, which is pretty heavy, and takes some of the strain off the zip as it’s such a fitted dress. I learned how to do it from one of my books, Couture Sewing Techniques. I would highly recommend this book – especially if you’re making something more involved.

The ball was such good fun! They had the Leicester University big band playing the music, and they were great. They played a mixture of traditional big band stuff and some newer things. I find it the best kind of music to dance to!

I managed to take basically no photos all night – which I think is the sign that you’re having a good time! I did take this loo selfie, though! I had on ALL THE EYESHADOW – I had to watch a YouTube video for how to apply it!

And lovely Helen from Stitch My Style took this photo of me – during the 5 minutes I remembered I should take at least one proper photo of my dress at the actual ball!

Did I mention I love my dress?!

It is fully lined in this rayon challis from Minerva crafts. I hemmed the lining and sequins together at the hem and on the sleeves as the sequins were quite scratchy and the rayon was a lot more drapey and I feared tripping over the lining inside my dress, so I hemmed them together.

One of my favourite things about my outfit was one of the things I didn’t make – I wore trainers! I can’t be arsed with heels any more. I have never found them comfortable and I thought (excuse my French) ‘fuck it’ I want to be comfortable and be able to dance without having to take my shoes off, or feeling like my feel were going to fall off after 10 minutes!

It has an almost invisible side zip and some poppers on the underarm seam of the corresponding sleeve to allow me to get in and out of it.

I drafted the pattern myself, using a Burda Academy course I mentioned I had signed up for here. I think I possibly over-fitted the dress a little as it ended up with basically no ease around the waist, but I do think it’s one of the best fitting things I’ve made (which I guess it should be as it’s made from my measurements). Especially across the back – I’m very narrow across the back so I usually have lots of extra fabric and pooling because I’m too lazy to do any adjustments!

I sewed some of the sequinned fabric I had left onto this little clutch bag to make a matching purse to take to the ball. It just about fits my phone, some cash and my hotel room card!

 

As well as the matching trainers and purse, I wore my gold party socks – I almost thought it was too matchy-matchy but then I realised I don’t care!

I really hope they run the ball again next year, or in 2 years as it was such good fun. And who doesn’t love an excuse to go all out with an outfit!? Do you think you’ll go next time?

2018 in Review

Another year is over so I’m recapping what I’ve made in the last 12 months. I thought I hadn’t made as much in previous years, but I made 5 dresses, 4 sweatshirts (2 for my friend’s daughter), 2 Cleos, 4 Pairs of trousers, one of which was part of my Socialite Soiree suit, 4 shirts, and a coat. Plus I made a Freddie Mercury outfit and refashioned a bunch of things into a Miss Fisher outfit. Phew!

Here is my final Make Nine 2018 progress – I made 5 of them, which I think is the most of any Make Nine I’ve come up with. I still didn’t yet make jeans. 2019 will definitely be the year I finally tackle jeans! I made my Honetone Coat, Carnaby Dress, Ebony Dress (twice), Blaire Shirt and Portobello Trousers.

The thing I’m proudest of making this year (as I mentioned via the #myproudestmake hashtag) is my Honetone coat. I really took my time over it in February and I’m really glad I did. Apparently there is some really cold weather coming in January so this will still get lots more wear this Winter. I kind of want to make another coat, but I probably don’t need one.

My second favourite make from this year was the suit I made to wear to the Sewcialite Soiree. I made it in record time, (unlike my coat) because I left myself, like 3 full days and 3 evenings to make it in. The Joe Jacket came together really easily and I definitely want to make another one, in black and white houndstooth – if anyone has any ideas where to buy some suiting in houndstooth, let me know!

One of my favourite makes was my cropped Kalle shirt. I definitely want to make more Kalles. I did wear it quite a bit this year as we had an unusually long Summer.

2 things that I wore way more than I anticipated were my 2 Cleos. Though sadly I wore the mustard one to work a lot and when unloading a delivery from a van I got a big black mark on it, which hasn’t come out yet. Happily I have loads of mustard corduroy left over from my suit so I’m going to replace it – I think that will be one of my first makes of 2019.

Pretty much my only refashion project (except adding a hem band to a cropped Inari tee) was to make my Miss Fisher outfit for The Rafashioners. The coat will definitely get lots of wear in Spring and Autumn when it’s not too cold.

My love affair with shirts continued – I made 4, 3 of which were from patterns I hadn’t used before. (Clockwise from top left: Blaire, Honeycomb, Melilot, Kalle)

I also made 4 pairs of trousers – and I have lots more plans for more trousers in 2019. (Clockwise from top left: Persephone Pants, Simplicity 1696, Portobello Trousers, Mercury Trousers). I really want to make more Persephone Pants next year so I’m on the lookout for good fabric.

I also made 5 dresses last year, which is a lot considering I don’t wear them super often now I work hulking fabric around all day. Dresses aren’t the most practical of garments. I love the Laurel I made – definitely a good rediscovery of a forgotten pattern in my stash. (Clockwise from top right: Inari Tee Dress, Carnaby Dress, Ebony Dress (blue and gold))

Also this year I ‘launched’ my Hundred Years Wardrobe project – to sew something from each decade of the 20th century. I also completed the first project – this 70s Freddie Mercury Zandra Rhodes outfit. Sadly I didn’t dare wear it to the cinema when I saw Bohemian Rhapsody, which was amazing!

This year I joined my local brass band, and a swing band, playing the cornet/trumpet which I played for 10 years while at school. I went to their big Christmas concert last year and the year before and last year I finally plucked up the courage to talk to the band leader and then I played at the Christmas concert this year! I also spent rather a lot of money on a set of mutes so I made some storage bags to keep them from getting bashed and scratched.

The other thing I wanted to do in 2018 was to do some knitting and to make my partner some clothes. I basically didn’t do either of these for 51 weeks of the year – I have actually done some knitting over the Christmas break. I’ve been finishing a jumper I cast on probably 3 or 4 years ago!

All in all this was a pretty good year for me – I did plenty of sewing, played lots of music and got a new job which I don’t hate. My partner turned 40 and we went away for a weekend. And I’ve tweaked some stuff in our flat so it looks nicer and works better – and I’ve been clearing out cupboards this holiday season, which has been really satisfying! I finally renewed my passport and went to visit one of my best friends, with my other best friend, in Germany finally, which was really brilliant. I always feel stupidly pleased with myself when I manage to fly somewhere on my own!

I’ve also had quite a few periods of feeling low and uninspired this year but I tried to be kind to myself and not get annoyed at myself if I didn’t sew for a couple of weeks or blog as regularly as I might have liked. Sewing and blogging should be fun hobbies so if I didn’t fancy doing them, then I didn’t and I feel good about that.

Hundred Years Wardrobe: 1970s

Over the Summer I was invited to a 70s party with the brass band that I play in – and it was the perfect opportunity to make my first Hundred Years Wardrobe make. I had the idea for this project at the beginning of the year, but thought I wouldn’t have time to make anything so shelved it until I had the chance to make a 70s outfit. I wrote a post about 70s fashion quite a while ago so I knew there were loads of trends to choose from – hippy, disco, punk, flares being obligatory. I did what I usually do when faced with something like this – went to Pinterest and searched for some iconic 70s figures to get some inspiration. I was pretty close to doing a Bowie look (but which one?!) but then I happened upon this amazing Zandra Rhodes outfit worn by Freddie Mercury and my mind was made up – I’ve always loved queen and thought what better outfit than this!

This was made by Zandra Rhodes and I thought it looked relatively simple to make – I would just have to master pleats!

I started with this really big, thick piece of cardboard I got from work and thought it would work as a pleating board, but in fact it was too thick.

Waaaay too thick!

Instead, I used a piece of thick paper/thin card I already had and it worked much better. For a pleating board, you need something thin enough that the pleats will be sharp. I used this tutorial on YouTube, but I didn’t back it with fabric – which I would definitely recommend if you’re going to try pleating a lot of fabric as my board kept expanding when I put the fabric in. But I just about managed it.

Once I’d made the board, I tested it and it seemed to work – and the fabric seemed to hold the pleats once ironed. The fabric, which was actually much thicker than would have been ideal, was a viscose-something mix (I can’t actually remember) which I bought in my local fabric shop. It was super wide and the ladies assured me that it would hold pleats, which was the main characteristic I was interested in.

I bought 4 metres of the fabric and used about 1m for the trousers, which I didn’t really photograph, either while making them or while taking the final photos. I used the Gertie Cigarette Pants pattern from her book Gertie Sews Vintage Casual as a basis, adding triangles to each side of the leg to make the flares. This was the same pattern I used for my Dressmaker’s Ball dress and I made some tweaks here and there, but it was a good job the fabric has quite a bit of stretch as it made them a bit more forgiving fit-wise and more comfortable to wear!

With the rest of the fabric, which was luckily really wide, I cut it in half parallel to the selvage to make about 5.5m of fabric which needed to be pleated! I got into a rhythm after a while and managed to pleat it all over the course of 2 evenings – of course I left making this outfit until really late so I was in a hurry and working on it every spare hour I could find.

I used some paperclips to try to hold some of the pleats in place as I moved on further down the fabric as I was worried the weight of the fabric would mean the pleats would drop out.

With the majority of the fabric pleated, I used every other little scrap of fabric to make the yoke pieces. But first i cut them out of calico, to be the under-layer which would hold most of the weight of the pleated fabric – and it was heavy! If I made this again I would definitely use something lighter!

Here are the front york and 2 back york pieces sewn together at the shoulders – a lot of this was guess-work, and holding pieces of paper up to myself to figure out how big to make them, but I did use the facing from the Inari tee and dress as a basis for the length and shape of the neckline.

I’m pretty sure the original Zandra Rhodes outfit only had one seam in the pleated fabric, probably at the back, but I had to have 2 so I had one at the front and one at the back, so I stitched the front seam together before I started pinning it to the calico support structure.

I then pinned all of the pleated fabric onto the calico under yoke. In the original outfit, I think it looks like there was more fabric in the middle of the front and then it’s a tiny bit more spread out as you move up Freddie’s body and over the shoulders, but I didn’t have anywhere near enough fabric to make it look exactly like the original – I would love to know how much fabric is in the original, I think it could easily be twice as much as I had.

After sewing on the pleat to the calico, I then cut the front parts for the yoke to cover all the stitching and everything, from the main fabric. I added a seam allowance so I would be able to fold the edges in, like a patch pocket. I also overlocked the edges as the fabric frayed like crazy!

After lots and lots of thinking about how to construct the top – mostly when lying in bed trying to sleep –  this was the only way I could come up with to make it. I figured it didn’t matter what it looked like on the inside as the outfit was for one party, but I would love to have a look at the original and see how it was constructed.

When pinning the front part on, I pinned the necklines together (which were the same size as I didn’t add seam allowance there), then worked from the middle out towards the shoulders, to try to make sure it was straight compared to the layer underneath.

At this point, I was pretty excited with how it was looking – and to be honest pretty pleased with how it was looking.

It seems that it was at this point that I stopped taking photos – I was stitching the top yokes on in the afternoon of the day of the party so I assume I was so rushing to finish that I didn’t document the rest of the process, but the back was pretty much the same as the front, which looked like this when it was all finished.

I then added a facing around the whole neckline, again using the Inari pattern as the basis. Then I added some eyelets to the back, to be able to lace it up (which facilitates being able to get in and out of it.

And now after all that writing and the in progress photos, I couldn’t resist trying to recreate the Freddie photos at the top of the post.

You can see in this photo, below, how there wasn’t anywhere near as much fabric in my version as in the original, but you get the idea and it was good enough for a one-off party.

Hopefully with my next Hundred Years Wardrobe make I won’t be in so much of a hurry (though who am I kidding, I love working last-minute to a crazy deadline!) so I’ll maybe have more than one post to write, about some new techniques I’ve discovered or some more inspiration images. But at least I’ve got the ball rolling!

Also I’m going to see Bohemian Rhapsody, the Freddie Mercury biopic, for my birthday in a couple of weeks. Would it be too much to wear this outfit to the cinema?! 😉

 

 

The Hundred Years Wardrobe Project

Since I’ve been sewing for a while I’ve decided to try to challenge myself to expand my skills and to sew garments and with fabrics that are outside of my comfort zone. And so was born my idea for the Hundred Years Wardrobe Project.

I’m going to sew one thing from each decade of the 20th Century. There is no time limit for this as I want it to be a fun exercise and deadlines are often where stress lies for me.

I’m going to also try to do some posts about my research for each decade and share some of my inspiration. A while ago I did write some posts about fashion history but I ran out of steam with them – hopefully with a garment to relate the history to I will have more to say and more to share. Some of the makes will be inspired by fashion and some will be from films – either made at the time or set in the past.

I would love it if anyone else wants to join in with this project – I’m calling it a project rather than a challenge as there is no deadline and there will be no prizes, just the pride in having made something cool!

Spoiler alert: I already have my first make made and ready to blog soon!

Crepe Mercury Trousers

As I mentioned in my Summer sewing plans post, one of the garments I wanted to make was some Marilla Walker MercuryTrousers made from this lovely Crepe from Sew Over It. Although I’m blogging only blogging them now, I did make them in early September when the weather was still sort of warm, but I maybe won’t get much wear out of them until next Spring.

But I do love them! And the pattern was really easy to assemble, especially because there’s no fly or buttons – they’ve got an elasticated waist so they’re easy to fit too. I made the size 2, based mainly on my waist measurement because there’s a lot of ease at the hips.

These trousers have excellent deep pockets – now I make my own clothes, I’ve realised my ready to wear trousers (the few I still have left) generally have pockets so small I can’t get even my hand in them, let alone anything else I might want to carry round.

Having said that this pattern was  easy to make, that was definitely true but I made a really stupid mistake. I had been ironing cotton immediately before ironing the centre front seam and I didn’t adjust the heat setting and melted a hole in the top of the trousers, right in the middle. I’m not going to lie, I threw a little tantrum over it and stopped sewing for a while until I’d calmed down, thinking I’d ruined some not-very-cheap-fabric.

But when I’d calmed down and had a think, I realised I could just essentially chop the top off by sewing the waistband on further down the trousers than the pattern called for. In the end I only lost 2cm and I think the trousers turned out fine – the rise was high enough on me that the adjustment didn’t give me a wedgie!

I made the view with the pleats and the cuffs on the bottom, but in these photos I’ve folded the calf up because the trousers are a little long on my, but I really like them and I definitely think I’ll make them again. I really like the wide-legged view too, and I think a pair in some lovely linen for next Summer would be perfect! I also really like the top that comes in the Mercury Collection, so I might give that a go when it warms up a bit too.

I think this might be my favourite ever outtake by the way. You. Are. Welcome.


Have you made the Mercury Trousers? Or do you have a favourite relaxed fit trouser pattern?